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We are indebted to Charles G. Finney for the phrase, "A praying heart." He said: "I am convinced that nothing in the whole Christian religion is so rarely attained as a praying heart." This heart is "the heart in the spirit" (Romans 2:29). It is in our human spirit, and is that part of us which can believe God and love and obey Him. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness" (Romans 10:10); "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart" (Matt. 22:37); "Ye obeyed from the heart" (Romans 6:17). Sometimes the words "heart" and "spirit" are used synonymously. But the "heart" is not the whole of the human spirit: only the center of it. It is the center of all centers: "Out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23).
The human heart or spirit answers to "the Holy of Holies" in the Tabernacle. It is the place where Gods Spirit dwells. As "God is a Spirit," (John 4:24), He must have a spiritual habitation: "Spirit with spirit can meet."
The phrase "a praying heart" may have a mystic sound, but it speaks of something very practical. What does it mean?
A Heart Especially Dedicated to the Lord for Prayer
As intercession is first in line of "essential service" and carries with it special responsibilities, a "special permit" must be given the Lord before He will lay upon anyone such a sacred charge. "A praying heart" must bear the weight of the stream of intercessory prayer which the Holy Spirit bears from the heart of the praying Christ.
Our ideas of heaven and what happens to anyone when he enters there, make it almost impossible to grasp the meaning of Christs intercession at the right hand of God. Nevertheless, all the sacrificial sufferings of Christ, His agony and pain in the garden and on the Cross, are preserved in the "Eternal Spirit" who is now joined with Christ in the ministry of heavenly intercession. That is, the Spirit of intercession is freighted with the Spirit of the Cross; for Christ Himself; for the Holy Spirit; and for the human intercessor who has "a praying heart."
It was the stream of Christs intercession flowing through Finneys "praying heart" that caused men and women to weep and that turned factory groups into prayer meetings--merely by his entrance into those factories. A praying heart, then, is a human spirit filled with the same prayer that the Holy Spirit bears from the heart of Christ as He incessantly prays in heaven.
Let no one be frightened away by the statement that a praying heart will be pierced with the arrows of Christly pains. Though a praying heart is a burdened heart, a heavy heart, it is a heavenly burden, a divine heaviness.
This burden swallows up all our human burdens! It is as if the Lord said, "You carry My burden of prayer, and I will take all your burdens off your shoulders!" "As dying, and behold we live...As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (2 Cor. 6:9-10).
We must come to see that prayer first of all is a Spirit from heaven. It is the breath of Christ breathed into our heart by the Holy Spirit. Words are but a small part of real prayer. The prayer that the Spirit breathes into ones heart is too great for words: it is "with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26-27). But though we cannot put it into words, this mighty Spirit of prayer will express itself somewhere, somehow. It is irresistible and irrepressible. A praying heart will accomplish more for God with ten words than a prayerless heart will with ten thousand words. The praying heart delights not in words but in the will of God. So a praying heart must be especially yielded to the praying Lord in heaven.
A Praying Heart Must Be a Pure Heart
More than this, a praying heart is the vessel of the Holy Spirit in a very special sense, making holiness absolutely essential. It takes very little of sin to rob one of his spirit of prayer. It requires such carefulness and watchfulness to avoid grieving the Holy Spirit of prayer that few will pay the price. The Spirit has many "offices," but in none of them is He so sensitive to our infractions of the law of holiness as He is in His office of "intercession."
A Believing Heart with No Room for Doubt
The praying heart must be also a believing heart. The inflow of the Spirit of prayer is regulated by the faith of the heart. "This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive" (John 7:39). And, of course, if the flow of the Spirit is to be steady, the faith of the heart must be without wavering (James 1:6). A believing heart will drink in the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13) as naturally and regularly as healthy lungs breathe in the air. And this is very necessary if one would keep "a praying heart."
To have a praying heart depends more on ones "will to believe" than on ones ability to "understand...mysteries" (1 Cor. 13:2). By a simple act of our will we decide whether the "Spirit of truth" or the "spirit of error" shall control our mind and heart. If we believe, the Spirit of truth will control; if we doubt, the spirit of error will control. This is a fact that we cannot evade.
A Humble Heart
A praying heart must be also a humble heart. A proud heart (which means an independent spirit) cannot believe. "How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another?" (John 5:44). A proud heart is not a pure heart. So the matter of a praying heart hinges more upon the question of humility than anything else.
Many there are who long to enjoy the blessedness of surrender to God, to have a pure and believing heart, but they will not pay the price of humility. Yet, without humility our hearts cannot be anything else but defiant, unclean and unbelieving.
It is only when we face the question of humbling ourselves that we become aware of the appalling wickedness of our fallen nature, and like Job, loathe ourselves. Here is where we come to see that we must submit to the death of the Cross. Indeed, the heart of the whole question of the Christian life and work is humility: "a broken and a contrite heart" (Psa. 51:17). Only a heart that is "clothed with humility" can have those other Christlike characteristics which God wants to see in His "sons and daughters."
A Loving Heart
A "praying heart" must be a loving heart. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart" (Deut. 6:5). "The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart...to love the Lord thy God" (Deut. 30:6). "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5). Only a heart that has been sufficiently humbled so that it is in a real sense a praying heart can experience that deepest "love of God, which is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:39).
A Tender Heart
A heart that bears the atoning love of God in itself by joining with Christ and the Holy Spirit in the line of intercession will be also a tender heart. It will be a gentle, kind, considerate, forgiving heart. "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christs sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32). A hard, unforgiving heart cannot pray and be heard.
"Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation...in the wilderness" (Hebrews 3:7-8). And remember that the more tender and sensitive to the Spirit of God ones heart is the greater its power to hurt others if it should yield, at any time, to any spirit that is contrary to love.
Of What Use Is A Praying Heart?
Who will want a praying heart seeing that it requires such carefulness and seeing that a praying heart involves crucifixion and sharing of Christs Cross? We answer: only those who love God and others with a measure of His own love. Only those who are willing to drink of Christs "Cup" -- the Cross -- so that they may be enabled to help other souls in their deepest need.
Those of Christs "members" who go deep enough into the prayer life to carry within them "a praying heart" hold the highest office in the household of God on the earth. The ministry of prayer is basic, fundamental. Therefore, every other ministry if it be truly spiritual, must be rooted in prayer.
Preaching, teaching, and every form of doing good have their respective place, but apart from prayer they have only a nominal, cultural effect upon men and women, whereas a truly spiritual ministry is designed to produce spiritual, heavenly and eternal results. One who has a praying heart stands in between Christ and men. On one hand he touches the heart of Christ in heaven; on the other he touches the deepest heart of His body on the earth.
It is passing strange that while everyone strives to "get ahead," to reach the seats of power and influence in this world, the children of God rarely ever "covet earnestly the best gifts" (1 Cor. 12:31), or the place "at Thy right hand" (Psa. 16:11). It seems they would rather be "well known" of men, even if this means that they shall be little known in heavenly circles. A praying heart will not seek the favor of this world.
Not only is the praying heart the greatest asset God has in this world, the greatest blessing to those who are in the most desperate need of Gods grace and help--it is also the greatest asset that Gods people could have in this closing hour of this evil age. It is the only thing that will make life bearable at all for many of them. Nothing short of being buried in God will drown out the fearful voices that are terrifying many Christians today. And nothing but a praying heart can bring strength and hope to those whose hearts are "failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming upon the earth" (Luke 21:26).
There are many Christians today who have "lost their grip," so to speak. They have "nothing to live for" any more. They are hoping that the Lord will come and "end it all"! And there is plenty of reason for this. But it is not a good way to live. In fact, it is not living at all; it is merely existing. It would not be a good condition for the Lord to find one in! It only makes time seem longer and ones griefs more hard to bear. And besides it does not accelerate the coming of the Lord.
"Blessed is that servant whom His Lord...shall find...doing," ministering to them of His household (Matt. 24:46). Only "a praying heart" can be strong enough to bear up under the trials of this evil hour.
As we have said before, though a life of real intercession -- a praying heart -- lays a burden of Christs own sacrificial sufferings upon one, yet the nearest thing to peace, joy, rest of satisfaction that we can know in a time like this, comes when the Spirit of prayer is heaviest upon us.
No previous generation ever had offered to it a greater opportunity to prove its faith in the Cross than is being offered to all of us today. And the highest and most Christly expression of our faith, and of our love for God is a real life and ministry of prayer, a praying heart.
Do you want to live "near to the heart of God"? Then make up your mind that you are going to have a praying heart.
You could not possibly get any nearer to Him than that in this world or in the next. "A happier day will dawn for you when you know Jesus" as the "intercessor," the fountain-head of prayer. A praying heart is not for those who only desire the Spirit for their own enjoyment.
Only the prayer-filled Christian is really filled with the Holy Spirit. It is most amazing that many Christians today who appear to be satisfied to remain in the "Kindergarten," whose only thought is that they be kept amused and entertained in spiritual ways--are among those who profess to be super-filled with the Spirit. Only those who have "come to years" will care for a thing so serious, so heroic, as a "praying heart."
Finally "a praying heart" is a heart that beats in synchronism with the heart of the great Intercessor in heaven, a heart that no longer "bucks" against the will of God. It thinks Christs thoughts and shares His feelings. It shares the "burden" of His universal intercession. This is the real "burden of prayer."
Two or more praying hearts will synchronize as one heart. This is what the Lord means when He says: "If any two of you shall agree...as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them..." (Matt. 18:19). Prayerless hearts do not synchronize -- "agree." Two praying hearts, because they are in agreement, may "put ten thousand to flight" (Deut. 32:30). The "praying heart" is a carrier for the mighty current of "intercession" which flows from the heart of Christ, through the Spirit of prayer.